An introduction to online accessibility standards
This is the first post of an ongoing series on accessibility for online communications. In the coming weeks, we’ll address the fundamentals of what it means to be accessible in your online communications, why it matters, and what you absolutely need to know when working with designers and developers.
In today’s digital world, 30% of the web-browsing population has some form of disability. Providing accessible content online should therefore be a goal for organizations and companies. In fact, it is now the law for most public sectors and the private sector isn’t far behind.
The unfortunate irony is that much-needed information on accessibility, including the mother of all guidelines, WCAG 2.0, is itself inaccessible in terms of ease of understanding. Unless you’re familiar with the concepts, technology and terms, you’re in for some serious head scratching.
For us designers and developers, we actually have to produce work that is accessible, so the real proof of concept is not just whether we’ve checked off line items of WCAG 2.0, but whether people with disabilities can actually fully access our work.
The first logical step towards catering content to any audience is to understand them. Their goals, their limitations and the tools they use to access online content provide a clear profile that helps us cater content to them.
Here are a few broad examples of some of the disabilities audiences may have:
- Visual Impairment
- Hearing Impairment
- Reading Disorder
- Learning Disorder
- Motor skill problems
Different types of disabilities have assistive technologies or adaptive strategies to navigate the web. They include:
- Keyboard (instead of a mouse)
- Keyboard and mouse alternatives
- Screen readers
- Screen magnifiers
- Voice recognition programs
- Tools to help with low vision, learning disabilities, contrast, etc.
Because disabilities can cover a wide gamut, providing accessible content for the largest common denominator is crucial. The fundamental categories of accessible guidelines that govern the digital world as dictated by WCAG 2.0, are summarized by them in the table below. Once you grasp what limitations your audience may have and the tools they use to mitigate, these main concepts will make sense. You can start to see the scaffolding that accessibility concepts are built on and why.
Information and user interface must be presented to users in a way they can perceive:
- Provide text alternatives for non-text content
- Provide captions and other alternatives for multimedia
- Create content that can be presented in different ways, including by assistive technologies, without losing meaning
- Make it easier for users to see and hear content
Users must be able to use the interface. It cannot require interaction that a user can’t perform:
Make all functionality available from a keyboard.
- Give users enough time to read and use content.
- Do not use content that causes seizures.
- Help users navigate and find content.
Users must understand the information as well as how to use the interface:
- Make text readable and understandable.
- Make content appear and operate in predictable
- Help users avoid and correct mistakes.
Content must be interpreted reliably by a wide range of user agents.
- Maximize compatibility with current and future user tools.
Source for summary:
Are your online communications accessible?
Contact us for a complimentary assessment of your website’s accessibility.
Contact Neglia Design if you would like to discuss the design of a new website or updating your current site to be accessible.